In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Pakistan Head Coach Waqar Younis spoke about his team's excellent performance in the Test series against England, what Pakistan need to do to compete with the best in the shorter formats of the game, Haroon Rasheed's grievances about the team selection against England, Younis Khan's sudden decision to retire from ODI cricket and Mohammad Amir's future with the Pakistan team.
By Saj Sadiq (7th December, 2015)
PakPassion.net : The recent two-nil Test series win over England must have been very pleasing?
Waqar Younis : It was very pleasing. Conditions of course suited us and looking at the Test side it’s a well-settled and well-balanced team with a lot of experience. When we play at home in the UAE we play a lot better and our strengths are the experienced batsmen in the middle-order like Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Azhar Ali. On top of that we have Yasir Shah who is showing his class and he was ably supported by Zulfiqar Babar. I think we are a balanced team in Test cricket and the players complement each other well and understand each other’s game very well.
PakPassion.net : On the other hand, the Pakistan fifty over team continues to struggle. What do you feel are the problems with the Pakistan One-day team?
Waqar Younis : I don’t think there is much wrong with the Pakistan One-day or Twenty20 squads. The simple fact is that against England we just did not play that well. We were superb in Sri Lanka before the series against England where we beat Sri Lanka in their own backyard. I think credit should be given to England for the way they played in UAE. They played really well and their youngsters performed and played some wonderful and modern cricket. They went after our bowlers and showed that modern day limited overs cricket has changed.
The Pakistan One-day team is going though a change in order to bring us up to the level of other teams in terms of our approach. We need to bring power cricket into our game in the limited overs formats. One-day cricket is so fast these days and you need to have players who are not only technically sound but also have the ability to clear the boundary at will as we saw the England players do. We need to work on this and get ourselves up to the level of other teams.
PakPassion.net : Someone is surely responsible for the fact that Pakistan is lagging behind in terms of the approach and being behind the times in the shorter formats?
Waqar Younis : I don’t think it would be fair to blame any individual or one department within Pakistan cricket for being responsible for this. Some countries have really put their foot down and changed their entire look and approach in limited-overs cricket and we haven’t done that. If you go back a year we were a really good One-day side but since we have lost Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez with the ball we have struggled. Losing these two bowlers was a huge setback as Hafeez and Ajmal were the bowlers who more often than not were our match-winners even when we didn’t put too many runs on the board. Back then we could say we only needed 250 or 260 on the board and Hafeez and Ajmal would see us home with the ball. But now we don’t have that luxury and with our bowling attack we need closer to 300 runs to defend. We had been playing a certain brand of cricket for a long time and to change that is not going to be a sudden process.
This message of change needs to go to domestic cricket also particularly when it comes to preparing young cricketers for the challenges of international cricket. The talent is there but there has to be more direction for the players for the limited overs formats from their departments and regions.
PakPassion.net : When the Pakistan Test team wins it’s because of the players, but when the limited-overs teams lose, it’s because of the coach. Is that fair enough?
Waqar Younis : (laughs). In Pakistan we have some interesting television channels with some interesting people on them who like to enhance things when we win or lose. I don’t mind what they do, as long as Pakistan wins. It doesn’t matter to me who is getting credit because it’s the players doing when we win as they are the ones that make you win games and they deserve credit. When the team loses it shouldn’t be about individuals, rather we all need to sit down and see where the problems are. It doesn’t honestly bother me about what some in the media are saying, because if you are trying to put things right with honesty then the words of such people amount to nothing.
PakPassion.net : Younis Khan retiring after a solitary One-day match in the series against England must have been confusing and unsettling for you and the rest of the squad?
Waqar Younis : The whole episode wasn’t a very pretty sight. I’m still trying to struggle why Younis did what he did. If he wanted to make a comeback to the One-day team and prove to people that he can still play that format he should have just said it and asked for it and I guess the selectors would have given him the game time and opportunity in not only the series against England but prior to that. It was an unfortunate way for Younis to exit One-day cricket. He wanted to prove a point and I guess he feels he has proved his point but I feel it wasn’t the right way to do it.
I gave Younis full confidence once he was selected for the One-day team. I gave him the batting position that he wanted and I gave him the guarantee that he would play in all four of the fifty-over matches against England. I’m not sure what happened after that, perhaps he wasn’t backing his own ability or not trusting his own form. I’m still very confused why Younis did what he did and I’m sure the selectors, the Chairman and a lot of other people are too. It was heartbreaking what he did as it had a huge affect on the team going forward.
PakPassion.net : Recent reports suggest that the Chief Selector Haroon Rasheed wasn’t happy with some of the team selections in the UAE. Can you elaborate on that and why Haroon should feel aggrieved?
Waqar Younis : The problem in Pakistan is that some parts of the media look for negatives more than positives. I feel that some people can take the negatives and criticism whilst others do get bothered by the criticism. This whole episode is due to the media putting pressure on some people and they reacting to it. I feel that if Haroon Rasheed or any other selector should be part of the tour and be part of the on-tour selection committee then that’s fine, yes please be a part of it as long as we are all on the same page and thinking alike. I have no problem at all with that, as long as we are all working together and not throwing dirt on each other.
PakPassion.net : Junaid Khan’s international career seems to have gone backwards. Where’s he going wrong and what can he do to rectify any issues?
Waqar Younis : Well he was part of the Pakistan Test squad against England so he’s not been totally forgotten about. Unfortunately conditions in UAE don’t allow for three pace bowlers so we could only pick two pace bowlers and Junaid had to miss out. I felt that he was lacking in pace and also lacking reverse-swing in UAE compared to the other bowlers like Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan and Rahat Ali. Unfortunately Junaid had to miss out but I felt that he wasn’t at his best in UAE. But he shouldn’t be disillusioned, he’s young and I’m sure with more cricket under his belt in Pakistan and for Pakistan A he will bounce back.
PakPassion.net : Have you forgiven Mohammad Amir for his actions of 2010?
Waqar Younis : We all have to move forward. I think Amir has served his sentence and has served his punishment and I honestly feel that he deserves a second chance. It’s not that we need someone like him badly in the team at the moment, but our culture and religion allows people to come back if they have made a mistake and served their punishment, so why can’t we give Mohammad Amir another chance? I have given a thumbs up to the Pakistan Cricket Board and the selectors that if PCB want to pick Mohammad Amir then it’s fine with me and I have no issues with that.
PakPassion.net : Do you feel though that with five years of his career lost, Amir can be the bowler he once was and could potentially have been?
Waqar Younis : That is impossible to predict. I’ve only seen a few clips of him bowling recently in the Bangladesh Premier League. He looked OK, but the most impressive thing was that he looked hungry for wickets and success. He needs time at the international level and we cannot expect instant success from him. Once he gets back into his rhythm I feel he has a lot to offer. He’s only 23 and some bowlers don’t peak until after this age so he has a lot of cricket ahead of him and plenty to offer his country.
PakPassion.net : Mohammad Hafeez recently made some comments where he stated that he would not be prepared to play in the same team as Mohammad Amir. That promises to be a tricky situation for you and the management?
Waqar Younis : We all need to be very careful and very honest when it comes to this situation. When Mohammad Amir is brought back into the Pakistan squad then it’s very important for all parties to sit down and clear the air. It will be important that the PCB sits down with the players and explains to them that Amir has served his punishment and that he deserves another chance. I don’t think it will be a problem as none of these boys are bad people and will understand the situation.
From what I know Hafeez’s comments have been blown out of proportion and he was talking to one of the journalists off the record and the next thing there was an article out there. I don’t think Hafeez meant what has been written. It’s sad that it came out like this as it shouldn’t have. I’m sure we can all sit down and sort out any misunderstanding or problem.
PakPassion.net : You played a lot of cricket with Inzamam-ul-Haq. Who in your opinion is the worst runner between the wickets, Inzamam or Hafeez?
Waqar Younis : (laughs) Our running between the wickets was very ordinary in the limited overs series against England and there is no excuse for it. There were four or five episodes where we looked like schoolboys. It’s something we need to sort out but I don’t actually know why it suddenly happened. It was very embarrassing and I’ve spoken to the players about this and hopefully they will fix that issue. You cannot keep someone who midway or towards the end of his career keeps getting run out on a regular basis. Hafeez needs to fix the issue and not just him but the rest of the players too.
PakPassion.net : Moving onto social media. Some Pakistani players have taken to social media but seem to be favouriting / liking tweets that criticise you. How do you feel about such behaviour?
Waqar Younis : When you are a professional cricketer and playing cricket then I don’t think it’s wise to go on any of these social media sites. I think as a player it upsets you when you read some comments and are also liking negative comments about team-mates or coaching staff. You are just putting more pressure on yourself and dragging yourself down rather than using it to enhance and improve your performance. I’m not really in favour of it and whoever is doing this really isn’t doing justice to himself or his country. I even hate those selfies! I know it’s a modern-era thing but I feel there’s got to be professionalism and some privacy when it comes to social media.
PakPassion.net : Do you think being the Head Coach of the Pakistan cricket team is one of the toughest jobs in sport?
Waqar Younis : It is, definitely. Because when you look around at a lot of other teams and Boards, their resources are far superior to ours. There is a lot of money involved and backing. Pakistan is a poor country and we cannot compete with the likes of the top teams when it comes to resources.
Having said that though, we have achieved a lot and to be near the top of the ICC Test rankings is a fantastic achievement and one that fills me with great pride especially for the players. It’s a tough job, it’s not easy but at the same time it’s very satisfying particularly when Pakistan win and the entire nation stands up and appreciates the efforts of the team and coaching staff.
PakPassion.net : Pakistan faces a crunch year next year with the World Twenty20, a tour of England and a tour of Australia. What targets have you set yourself and the team?
Waqar Younis : The biggest challenge for me at the moment is to try and change the mindset of the players. I’ve been trying to do this for the last year or so. We’ve had a number of young cricketers come through since the World Cup and we’ve had a change in captaincy in the fifty over format. So the task and challenge is to change the mindset of the players that in the One-day format it’s not just about batting fifty overs and scoring 240 or 250. Instead it’s about making a hundred and making sure it’s at least at a run-a-ball. You just have to look around at the likes of AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla and at their consistency and that is what our batsmen need to try and aim for. My main aim for the period of my contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board is to make sure the players understand the modern game of cricket and to make sure they play accordingly.